The man in Homs, Syria

Memories … . Damascus - Dec 25, 2013

It’s Christmas and I am looking out of the window of my ‘security cleared’ hotel in Damascus and I see black smoke rising just behind the mountains.

I just returned from Homs, a small city in Syria near the Lebanese border, where I met an educated middle-class man with his wife and their two children. No politics, no religious issues, just life, his children, his skills, and lack of a job, and lack of any education for his children. All he wants is some future for his children, and in absence of schools, that seems impossible. He feels how his children are loosing out on a daily basis, bit by bit.

He was suffering from depression - depression deep enough that affects everyone around him. I didn’t take his picture, and yet, it is like his image is printed on my mind. His face still keeps me up at night. I cannot shrug that man out of my mind. It is so unfair that millions of children have to pay the price, with their lives, dreams and future, for the greed of a few dozen individuals.

I counted at least 30 shelling from the window of my hotel in Damascus. My driver the next day told me, “It’s so safe these days, there were no shillings last night”. It’s amazing how people get used to violence when they loose control over it. One develops filters to cancel out undesirable. As I don’t hear the train that rattles my house every time it passes by, people don’t hear shelling. They just can’t.

Yamama, a girl from Syria

Memories … .Lebanon - Dec 06, 2013

“It doesn’t matter if I am going to school in a tent, what matters is that I am going to school.”

I met Yamama in an informal refugee camp for Syrians in Lebanon. Due to intense war around her village, Yamama, along with her mother and elder brother left Idlib, leaving behind three other siblings with her father. She now lives with her mother, brother, and extended family – a total of 15 people in one tent.

Sometimes you meet someone that makes you feel as somebody has literally taken your heart out of your body and squeezed it. That’s how I felt when I met Yamama. She looked like a ballet dancer; completely out of place washing dishes in her torn tent. She was so likable, so beautiful, and so vulnerable, I wish I could do something for her, perhaps adopt her. Yet, I knew better. She had parents, siblings, and family. What happened to her should never have happened. We as a society failed her along with thousands of Syrian children like her. We have allowed the conflict in Syria to happen and to continue.

She said, “My school in Syria was nice, I used to have a really good teacher, and I liked him very much. I did really well in school; I used to pass all my exams and get full marks. Here I go to school in a tent. In Syria, my school was in a building with separate classes for big and small children. It doesn’t matter if I am going to school in a tent, what matters is that I am going to school. Going to school is nice, even
here in the camp.”

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